The visitors had opened the contest full of intent and had the better of the play until Martin Boyle was caught by Jamie Hamilton’s lunge in the 12th minute, leaving referee Craig Napier with a decision to make. Having been surrounded by furious Hibs players the official consulted his assistant before showing the teenager a red card.
“I think you can tell by the tone of my voice how I feel about it,” fumed Rice. “It changed the course of the game 100 per cent.
“My boys need me at the side of the pitch so I’m not going up in front of the SFA for something I’ve said.
“I think there was a bit of contact but he touched the ball as well. Referees have got a very difficult job, but they’re well paid for it.
“Jamie is gutted. It was a massive turning point, I thought we started the game fantastically well. Scott McMann had a shot and we hit the post. Then for 75 minutes we gave Hibs a run of their money with ten men.”
But, conceding that Hamilton had made his side work for their victory and had denied his team the kind of control he would have liked with the extra-man advantage, Ross said it was impossible to know if things would have played out differently without the sending off.
“I would argue that it's difficult to say the red card decision determined the end result. But it certainly changed the dynamic of the game.
“We had to work hard to win it because Brian's team are in a good place. He got a reaction from them even with 10 men so I'm pleased with the victory.
“I thought Jamie was a bit high and reckless with the tackle. But I was still surprised when he was sent off.
“I don't think there was real malice in it but it probably didn't look great and because Martin is so quick, it maybe looks bad in real time.”